A man trying to get home to his dog gets stuck in a time loop that forces him to relive a deadly run-in with a cop.

Carter has done nothing wrong. His day starts like a normal day, he wakes up and tries to sneak out of a bed (only to get caught!), and all he needs to do, after having breakfast, is going back home to his dog. He doesn’t know that it is only the beginning of a nightmarish experience: when he leaves the girl’s house, he gets stopped by a cop for no reason. The policeman is aggressive, suspicious. Everything escalates quickly and Carter gets shot, then wakes up in the bed again and the day starts over. No matter how hard the main character tries, how many times he changes his behavior, his decisions, his attitude, the day repeats itself over and over again with his death. Even when he decides to stick around with the girl and have breakfast at her’s, he gets killed: the police breaks in the house and shots him. TWO DISTANT STRANGERS won several awards, including the Academy Award for best fiction short film: it is well written, nicely shot, amazingly acted. It also has a very interesting character development and some twists. It depicts something unfortunately very brutal and actual, and some scenes recall true events, like the murder of the innocent Breonna Taylor inside her house, the choking of George Floyd, and the short film itselfs at the ending credits lists too many black people brutally murdered by the police. This film had a very good production, has cool music score and well-chosen actors. While what happens in this loop is terrible, and Carter struggles to survive, the ending also has a kind of hope message: no matter how hard it will be, he will do anything to get home to his dog.

TWO DISTANT STRANGERS recently reached the news, involved in a controversy with GROUNDHOG DAY FOR A BLACK MAN (2016, Cynthia Kao). TWO DISTANT STRANGERS won the Oscar at the 93rd edition this year, 2021, as best fiction short film. While the film by Kao is from 2016 and was recently brought back to attention after the murder of George Floyd, the Netflix production is more recent and seems to have tapped from the first short to construct the award-winning work. Some argue that the ‘groundhog day plot’ isn’t something that you can copy, as it may be considered a subgenre, but what they can’t see is that there’s not just the ‘groundhog day’ going on in both the short films: it is pretty much the same story, a black man getting killed over and over and no matter how hard he tries, he fails to escape his fate. Obviously, having more budget and being longer, TWO DISTANT STRANGERS adds more to the plot, has character developement, more different situations, but what lies underneath – the plot – looks the same. The tone is also different, not comedic but highly dramatic, but the problem remains there: is TWO DISTANT STRANGERS a rip off of GROUNDHOG DAY FOR A BLACK MAN? The issue was addressed by Kao on TikTok (you can find the video at that link), also referring to NowThis sharing her film during the protests for George Floyd and then ending up collaborating with Netflix for the film by Roe and Free; NowThis responded that he film was independently conceived and they got involved just at the end of production (you can find the answer from NowThis at the same page).

Director: Martin Desmond Roe, Travon Free
Country: USA
Year: 2020
Running time: 32